Does Comast Check To See If 911 Works On Your Digital Phone?

A Comcast insider warns us that Comcast does no checks to make sure 911 is working on your Comcast digital phone:

UPDATE: Comcast PR says this information is incorrect. Their statement, inside…

…it has come to my attention that Comcast does not run any checks to see if their e911 service is working on your Comcast Digital Voice (CDV) service this means that if your house is on fire and you call 911 with a Comcast phone it might not work. Problems can occur on a account basis so your neighbors service might be fine but you may not be able to connect to your local 911 service or it may route you to the local 911 administrator’s line. The only way you will know if there is a problem is if you call 911. This scared me as well as my co-workers when we were informed.

We don’t know whether this is any different from the behavior of any other digital voice provider, or if 911 failure has ever happened to a customer, but the prospect of not being able to reach 911 certainly is frightening.

Comcast PR rebuts:

The information that was provided for this posting is false. Comcast does check to see if our E911 service is working and tests our 911/E911 capabilities regularly. We take 911/E911 very seriously, as any phone provider should, and we comply with the FCC’s E911 requirements and follow accepted industry procedures and practices on 911/E911.


Edit Your Comment

  1. misterlivingston says:

    Grandma? I’m pregnant!

  2. cashmerewhore says:

    If your power is out, Time Warner does not guarantee any phone service.

    So, if lightning strikes your house, blowing a transformer and setting it on fire, I hope you have a cell phone.

  3. Starfury says:

    This is why I’ll keep my low tech/old fashioned land line. Power out? Still works.

  4. Can you legally test this? Would they get annoyed?

  5. @cashmerewhore: Verizon has a battery back up for power failures on it’s FIOS.

  6. saphyrre says:

    Comcast’s Arris Touchstone voip modem also has a battery backup (lasts up to 8 hours) installed by default, and there is a emply slot for a secondy battery (you have to buy that yourself).

  7. scoosdad says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: You might be able to, depending on your local city or town. Don’t dial 911 but instead call the regular business number of your police department and explain that you’d like to test your VOIP phone for 911 use. They’ll let you know if it’s permissible and when would be a good time to do it.

    On the other hand, your 911 call from a VOIP phone may not even go directly to your local 911 center; it might go to an intermediate call handling center that forwards your call to the local 911 center. Depends on your VOIP provider and what they have set up to do that.

  8. RottNDude says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: Yes, you can legally test your 911 service. Tell the operator “I am testing my telephone service, this is not an emergency”. Wait for them to acknowledge you and make sure they understand it’s a test before you hang up!

  9. scoosdad says:

    Personally I keep the local direct number for my police and fire handy next to my phone in case of an emergency. I woudn’t trust my VOIP provider to connect me properly at all on 911.

  10. emptydarkone says:

    Yes you can test your 911 by calling the NON-EMERGENCY line FIRST to let them know that you would like to test your line. Don’t just call 911 and say ‘Hoe-don, I’s jest be checkin’ ma line foe da po-po jest in case I’s gets a cap buss-ed in ma ass’.

  11. floyderdc says:

    This is why you do not get VOIP service. I had it for about two years, but went back to good old fashioned line. The price was right, but not having a phone when the power was out just wasn’t cool. I do not get very good cell reception in my apartment.

  12. boandmichele says:

    @RottNDude: no, dont do that, do what emptydarkone says, and call a non-emergency line first. if you dont verify your info, and if they arent expecting your call, you may get visitors at your house anyway.

  13. @emptydarkone: How would you go about finding the non-emergency 911 number?

  14. rhombopteryx says:


    Yeah. Whenever the question is “In some places its a criminal act leading to jail time, but in some places it’s not, can I do it?” it’s probably best not to take the advice of some dood on the ‘net. Call the non-emergency line and ask.

  15. RottNDude says:

    I guess if you live in Podunk, that might work… I’ve installed countless telephone and alarm systems and have never had an issue simply ringing them up… YMMV.

  16. Vonage has a pretty thorough explanation of trying to dial 911 with a digital service: []

    As other commenters have noted, Vonage confirms that you’re s.o.l. if your power is out.

  17. rbb says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: Sure, and that battery backup only lasts for a few hours. Not good if your power is out for DAYS. And, it is still dependent on a bunch of other systems that may or may not have backup power.

    There’s a reason why every telephone CO has a big diesel generator and a few days worth of fuel…

  18. boandmichele says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: just call the local police department whose jurisdiction you are in, and ask for dispatch. you may or may not be speaking to 911 at that point, but either way, that person will be able to get you to the 911 operators.

    also, hopefully for you, you live in a smaller city, so you dont get lost in the fray. also, remember to be polite. its always nice to answer the phone and NOT have someone yelling, crying, or just generally going through something stressful.

  19. elangomatt says:

    @RottNDude: Actually I think that might vary. I know in my home county we can do that, but I was working at one of my works satelite center’s in the next county over and tried testing 911 that way, and they actually dispatched the police and we got a talking to about testing 911 by calling 911. Good thing the 911 center and police dept were in the same building we were working in though so they didn’t have to go far.

  20. K-Bo says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: Phone book. Normally right inside the front cover, or on the first page of the bluepages (local government info) I’m sure it’s also available online through your local governments web page.

  21. man-or-llama says:

    @boandmichele: Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? If they connect you to the 911 operators, you’re not actually testing if your VOIP line will connect you correctly, right?

  22. boandmichele says:

    no, because there are non-emergency lines to get to them as well, that obviously have less priority than 911’s.

    what im saying is, once you get ahold of a 911 operator on a non-emergency line, then you get cleared to call 911 for real. if you are going through the police (what i recommend), just tell them why you want to speak with 911, and make sure they send you to non-emergency (they will probably do that anyway)

    all in all, no one should ever be afraid of calling 911. 911 operators deal with so many things each day that are much more serious, and much LESS serious than test calls, that it’s truly no big deal.

    this entire process should take less than 60 seconds, even though it seems complicated.

  23. darkened says:

    but the prospect of not being able to reach 911 certainly is frightening.

    Not to me, I use skype as my “land line.”

  24. Nighthawke says:

    That is IF their generator works properly. We’ve lost equipment when they switched over from mains to either battery or the generator. One time we lost a complete modem concentrator (that’s a huge chassis with 5 modems per card, a USR Total Control system) due to the backplane getting cooked by one power surge. It was an old unit and their smart jack blew its brains in the process as well. CenturyTel had the stones to charge us $500 for the call and denied that their CO caused it. They finally gave up when we threatened to take them to court over it.

  25. viqas says:

    When i had digital phone time warner gave us a tall black modem that was made by aris, it had a battery built in. Thing is that if you are going to go with alternative technology such as voip or docsis is to tape a note on the phone that 911 does not work and have basic instructions to call each individual branch.

  26. marciepooh says:

    I have been told (by someone with small children and no land line, not a phone company employee) that as long as the land line is not physically disconnected you can plug a phone in and call 911. I don’t know if your address will pop up on the screen, so hopefully you can still speak well enough to give it to the operator.

  27. medalian1 says:

    Oh my gosh! I can’t call 911!? I think I’ll survive. Call from the neighbors house. Call from your cell phone. Why don’t you just go back to regular $55 phone service?

  28. lenagainster says:

    @darkened: “Not to me, I use skype as my “land line.””
    I use VoIP as my land line and my cellphone as a backup. If I were afraid of problems with 911 (I certainly know my address and could TELL the 911 emergency operator that information), I surely would never drive a car. Much more likely to be killed on the Beltway than die in the bedroom.

  29. @lenagainster: What if you were in a situation where you couldn’t relay ALL of that info? I keep my cellphone w/me in bed in the off chance I may have an emergency where I can just flip it open and hold 9, and pray the GPS works. I picture a heart attack, stroke, breathing troubles, etc….

  30. @rbb: I don’t worry much about power in my area, because my next door neighbor is the local power company, and they have lots of cool things with wires and stuff. I’ve called for line problems, and watched the truck get dispatched.

    I also talked w/ my neighbor who works for Verizon, and he said that the battery lasts for a couple of hours of talking, but if you leave the phone on the hook, it will last longer.

  31. @K-Bo: 911 in my area is regional, so while I know my local PD’s dispatch phone #, 911 is somewhere else. I’m occasionally afraid that they outsourced, and one day I won’t understand what the 911 operator is saying. Seriously, if McDonalds outsources some of their drive throughs, what stops 911?

    @boandmichele: My city/town actually has but one police car, and we depend on another towns police. They’re very good. I always try to remain calm when I call them. Once some guy nailed a street sign in the snow, and all the people on my block (3 familes total) came out w/our cellphones, but since I keep them on speed dial, I got the cops first. I was talking to the dispatcher, and she told me to see if the driver was OK, and as I knock on the guys window, he took off. I was talking as I walked up, and was like “OK, I’m gonna see if their OK. ::knocks on glass:: Are you OK?” Dispatcher: “Is he answering?” Me: “I don’t know, he’s driving away.” Dispatcher: “Oh.” It was almost funny.

  32. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @Starfury: Same reason everyone in my house has a cell. Unless lightning strikes the three cell towers in range of my home, I’m pretty sure I can make a call. And if my battery goes dead, I have a car charger I can plug into one of my two cars.

  33. ionerox says:

    You *can* call 911 to have them test the line- you simply state that you are not calling because of an emergency and are verifying that your 911 service works on your VOIP or whatever.

    While you’re at it- you should ask them to tell you what address shows up when you call. It really sucks if there is an emergency and somehow 911 thinks you’re halfway down the block from where you are calling from. We discovered this the hard way, when my coworker had an severe allergic reaction and stopped breathing.

  34. ComcastCorp says:

    Ben, the information that was provided for this posting is false. Comcast does check to see if our E911 service is working and tests our 911/E911 capabilities regularly. We take 911/E911 very seriously, as any phone provider should, and we comply with the FCC’s E911 requirements and follow accepted industry procedures and practices on 911/E911.

  35. shfd739 says:

    Ive been an EMS and fire dispatcher for almost 6 years. If you call 911 in our county and tell the calltaker you are “testing your phone” you will get an earfull of how you are tying up a 911 line followed shortly by a knock on your door by law enforcement.

    Seriously your VOIP provider can tell you how your 911 will work. A few things to remember. We wont get the automatic number and location like from a landline so you better be able to give an address and callback number. That same goes for cell phones. If your power is out it may not work. Your call to 911 may not even go through so youll need a cell or go to a neighbor.

    Personally you are still better off with a landline.

  36. shfd739 says:

    @ionerox: No you cant call 911 to check this. Most calltakers will hang up on you or dang near cuss you out. Look up your local PSAPs (Public Service Answering Point) nonemergency number and call on that. They will help you that way, do not call 911 to check a line, that is just ignorant.

  37. n/a says:

    Jesus is every company using the “we are taking it very serious/ly” card for every rebuttal or something of that sort? That phrase has become a crutch now for companies to say well we didnt give a shit before but now that yall are bitchin we take that shit seriously now and will do something to get yall to shut up and buy our business.

  38. Just might be time to start looking at a cell phone…

  39. riverstyxxx says:

    Satanists? lol.

  40. jaredharley says:

    Shouldn’t this now be filed under “taking it seriously” as well?

  41. theblackdog says:

    I was actually advised by my police department to dial their direct emergency and non-emergency phone numbers instead of using 911 for police because 911 went to a call center for the entire county. So 911 would pass on the information to the city police dispatcher, and if it’s a busy night, well that could mean a delay.

  42. Klink says:

    @jaredharley: We take 911/E911 very seriously
    I think you’re right.

  43. Joli says:

    I had Comcast digital phone service installed recently ( I had it removed a few weeks later due to being very unsatisfied with it ) . On the back of the customer copy of the ” work order ” given to me by the installer I was told to please read the back of my copy. This is a disclaimer for E911 as provided by Comcast on their digital phone service:

    I am quoting only one of the paragraphs here

    ” Calls, including calls to 911 may not be completed if there is a problem with network facilities, including network congestion, network congestion, network/equipment/power failure or another technical problem “

    One of the very few calls I attempted to make while I had Comcast Digital Voice ( phone ) Service was to order a take out Pizza from a local Pizza place in the same telephone exchange as I am in. That call was never completed and I got a recorded announcement that said something to the effect ” We’re sorry all circuits are busy please try your call again later ”

    I have never heard an announcement like that for a ” Local ” phone call within the same exchange with my former telephone provider that I have had for over 30 years. This is only one of many many reasons I did not keep Comcast Phone Service for more than 30 days. Too many disapointments. I went back to the ” real ” phone company.